University’s Virtual Scholars program to provide 74 free online course enrollments for Nebraska high school students
NU President James B. Milliken announced the Virtual Scholars initiative in August, offering 50 free course enrollments on a competitive application basis. Today, Milliken announced that the university will support all 74 course applications that it received. Students from 25 high schools around the state will benefit.

A rural student who wanted to take Advanced Placement calculus but couldn’t because his school doesn’t offer it.

A student who’s qualified to take physics but wouldn’t have been able to do so until college because his Class C-1 school couldn’t justify offering the class for just one student.

A student who plans to study economics in college but whose rural school doesn’t offer a course in the principles of macroeconomics.

These Nebraska high school students – and many more – now will be able to take courses that weren’t previously available to them thanks to the University of Nebraska’s Virtual Scholars pilot program. The program is providing free course enrollments through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Independent Study High School this year in an effort to make online courses, particularly those in the STEM disciplines, available to more students around the state so they are better prepared to succeed in college and beyond.

NU President James B. Milliken announced the Virtual Scholars initiative in August, offering 50 free course enrollments on a competitive application basis. Today, Milliken announced that the university will support all 74 course applications that it received. Students from 25 high schools around the state will benefit.

“I’m delighted that our offer to provide free online course enrollments drew such a strong response,” Milliken said. “This demonstrates that our instincts were right – that there is a broad need across Nebraska, particularly in the rural areas of our state, for increased access to core, Advanced Placement and elective courses that position our young people to graduate from high school, earn a college degree and contribute to the knowledge economy.”

Milliken added, “That’s why I have committed to supporting every application we received. High schools across the state demonstrated a need, and the University of Nebraska will meet it.” Given the strong interest in the pilot program, Milliken said, it is critical that the state determine how it can sustain a thriving Virtual High School for the benefit of students statewide.

Milliken pointed out that a new College Board survey of recent high school graduates found that 44 percent said they wished they had taken more rigorous coursework to prepare for college and the workforce. Part of the goal of the Virtual Scholars program was to increase access to rigorous courses so Nebraska students could be positioned for success, Milliken said.

Of the 74 course applications, 14 were for math courses – including pre-calculus and Advanced Placement calculus as well as basic mathematics courses – and five were science courses. Another 18 were for world language courses. Other courses requested include A.P. English Literature & Composition, A.P. U.S. History, A.P. Environmental Science, Modern Photography, Business Communications and more. UNL’s Independent Study High School opened its entire catalog of more than 100 fully accredited courses for the application process.

Barbara Wolf Shousha, director of the Independent Study High School, said she was encouraged that many schools that applied for the Virtual Scholars program had not utilized ISHS before. The majority were small, rural schools, many of which serve students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM disciplines.

“We’re grateful that through the Virtual Scholars pilot initiative, we can engage more Nebraska schools in online learning, which is an excellent option for today’s students,” Shousha said. “Our experience has shown us that the Independent Study High School can help schools meet their goals of extending curriculum options, challenging students and supporting them on their way to graduation – regardless of their geographic location. It is our hope that the Virtual Scholars program will make more schools aware of UNL’s Independent Study High School and the exciting opportunities it provides for young people.”

UNL’s Independent Study High School was founded in 1929 and currently serves more than 2,200 students worldwide, including 300 in Nebraska.

The Virtual Scholars program was launched in conjunction with a new Nebraska Virtual Partnership announced by Governor Heineman last month. The partnership – which includes the University of Nebraska, Nebraska Department of Education, Educational Service Unit Coordinating Council and Nebraska Educational Telecommunications – is supported by the P-16 Initiative and will work to achieve the Governor’s vision for a Nebraska Virtual High School.

A list of high schools that applied, and were approved, to participate in the university’s Virtual Scholars program is below. Their counties are also listed. · Allen High School (Dixon) · Arapahoe High School (Furnas) · Arnold High School (Custer) · Ashland-Greenwood High School (Saunders) · Brady High School (Lincoln) · Bruning-Davenport High School (Thayer) · Burwell High School (Garden) · Cedar Bluffs High School (Saunders) · Clarkson High School (Colfax) · Coleridge High School (Cedar) · Deshler High School (Thayer) · Garden County High School (Garden) · Homer High School (Dakota) · Humphrey High School (Platte) · Madison High School (Madison) · Malcolm High School (Lancaster) · Millard South High School (Douglas) · Norfolk High School (Madison) · Platteview High School (Sarpy) · Raymond Central High School (Lancaster) · Sidney High School (Cheyenne) · Sioux County High School (Sioux) · Southern (Wymore) High School (Gage) · Wheeler Central (Wheeler) · Wood River High School (Hall)

Contact: Melissa Lee (402) 472-7127 (402) 580-3297 (cell)
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